A Travellerspoint blog

Varenna

A bird's eye view of Varenna.

sunny 34 °C
View Red and Annie's European Journey on Gibbo54's travel map.

A very relaxed start to the day today - these slow starts are great. We are starting to really relax now - and this is the perfect place to do it.
We decided to visit the Castle Vezio today. This castle stands high on the hill/mountain behind Varenna - it's a long way up if you're walking there.
We took off at around 11am - having studied some rudimentary maps on just how to get up there. We are not called "Two Idiots Abroad" for nothing - we were the only two people that we could see who took this particular route. It was the longest route, and one undertaken in hot sun and high humidity. However - in our defence I would have to say that signs around Varenna are in short supply - especially those in English. We walked over to the train station, up steep alleyways, up steps, on roads, down steps, through the bush, through small villages - and finally! We made it up there - hot, sweaty, worn out - but the views on the way were brilliant!
There is a Falconry here in the grounds of the Castle, a practice that is centuries old. There are birds of prey here that are trained. There is also a huge owl called Artu - a Great Horned Owl, one of few in the world.
The origins of the Vezio Castle are unclear but it's believed that it was originally constructed in around the 4th Century AD. All that is left now is the outer shell and the tower in the middle, but it's really impressive none-the-less. It stands out high on the mountain and can be seen from many vantage points in Varenna.
We got talking to an English couple in the centre of the castle and ended up having lunch with them in the cafe there. This was really pleasant and a great way to while away the time until the Falconry show started. This took place in the gardens outside the Castle looking out over the most amazing view of Lake Como. It was a good show, except that it was completely in Italian, and the only word that was spoken that we understood was "Okay" - a couple of times. The trained falcon soared high in the air - off the side of the mountain, over the lake and then back again to the trainer. Very impressive, but it was a shame that we didn't understand anything that was said.
We said goodbye to Monica and Rod - wishing them a great holiday. Then we went back in to the Castle and climbed the steps up the tower to the top. What a view from here - just stunning! We got talking to some people who also climbed to the top of the tower. One guy from the US works for Cameron, another guy from the US works for BP, and then there was yours truly who works for Apache. A coming together of representatives from the Oil and Gas industry - on top of a castle in Northern Italy. Crazy. The guy from Cameron comes to Perth often and knows Apache well. Anyhow, each of us took photos for each other and once again we bade farewell to people we'll never see again.
It was now around 5pm and time for us to make our way down to ground level. This journey was much easier than the one up - it took us less than half the time. This was the way that we should have gone this morning, but when we arrived back in Varenna at the end of the track, there was absolutely no sign present - so we couldn't have known that it was the way up to the Castle. The town's best kept secret. I just don't get that, wouldn't you think that they'd make things as easy as possible for the poor unsuspecting tourist - especially if it's generating tourism revenue?
Anyhow, not to worry, no harm done. We got back to our apartment, and then I went for a little wander through the few shops that are here in the town. On the way home I picked up something for us to heat up for dinner - and another quiet night in for the Gibbos.
Stunning views on our walk up to the Castle.

Stunning views on our walk up to the Castle.

Water - fresh and cold from the mountains.

Water - fresh and cold from the mountains.

Artu - the Great Horned Owl.

Artu - the Great Horned Owl.

Red and Anne on top of the tower at the Vezio Castle.

Red and Anne on top of the tower at the Vezio Castle.

Fiumelatte - on the banks of Lake Como.

Fiumelatte - on the banks of Lake Como.

Perledo - Lake Como.

Perledo - Lake Como.

Looking down on the Vezio Castle walls - from the tower.

Looking down on the Vezio Castle walls - from the tower.

Trainer and falcon at the Birds of Prey demonstration - Vezio Castle.

Trainer and falcon at the Birds of Prey demonstration - Vezio Castle.

Falcon in flight.

Falcon in flight.

Inside the Castle Vezio walls.

Inside the Castle Vezio walls.

Castle Vezio - Lake Como.

Castle Vezio - Lake Como.

Varenna - from above.

Varenna - from above.

Shades of blue - Lake Como.

Shades of blue - Lake Como.

The Vezio Castle - high above Varenna.

The Vezio Castle - high above Varenna.

The walk up through the forest to the Vezio Castle.

The walk up through the forest to the Vezio Castle.

A building by a small river - on our walk up to the Vezio Castle.

A building by a small river - on our walk up to the Vezio Castle.

Can you see the castle on top of the hill directly above the Bell Tower? That's where we walked!

Can you see the castle on top of the hill directly above the Bell Tower? That's where we walked!

Posted by Gibbo54 11:35 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Varenna

A day on the lake.

sunny 34 °C
View Red and Annie's European Journey on Gibbo54's travel map.

A sleep in and a slow start to the day today - haze was in the air once again - no! We didn't emerge from our apartment until around mid-day today - but had been regularly checking the atmosphere. Good news for us - the haze had lifted a bit, and while it was still hanging around, it was better than yesterday.
We headed down to the dock and bought ferry tickets that would take us to a number of ports on Lake Como - including Bellagio and Menaggio. The movement of ferries and boats on Lake Como is constant - they're everywhere, but at the same time - they blend seamlessly in to the environment.
We sailed across the lake to Menaggio, stayed on the ferry and turned in the direction of Bellagio. This is probably the most popular town on Lake Como - very "touristic" as the Greeks would say. But all the same, it's a charming, picturesque town. We had lunch in a little restaurant up high in the township, and then had a quick look around the shops - but there were so many people there. We realised that we had 5 minutes to catch the ferry across the lake to Tremezzo - so we walked quickly down the pebble steps past little shops, cafes and restaurants - and got on the next ferry.
The weather at this point was beautiful - sunny, hot, and hazy - but off in the distance. We got off the ferry at the Villa Carlotta (we'll come back here another day), and took a walk along the lake through Tremezzo in the direction of Lenno. The views along this part of Lake Como are literally jaw dropping. The Alps in the distance are so spectacular you almost can't believe what you're looking at.
We stopped in a park/gardens right on the water where the locals come to sunbake on the grass. There were heaps of young people there playing different types of sports - or sitting/lying around chatting and having fun. It was a good atmosphere and although there were a lot of young people here - there was not a hint of hooliganism, trouble or animosity. Nice to see.
We ran out of walking path on the way to Lenno, and would have had to take a direction off the main road. Given that there is very little signage and nothing in English, we didn't want to go off in the wrong direction. I did ask an older gentleman in a barber shop - he spoke absolutely no English at all. He pointed in a particular direction and held up his 8 fingers and 2 thumbs. I took this to mean either 10 minutes or 10 kilometres. Not wanting to risk it, we decided to turn back. Not a problem, as the scenery was breathtaking. We timed it perfectly, and hopped on a returning ferry for our boat ride back to Varenna. We took some brilliant photos today.
We walked back to our apartment - worn out from having walked so long in the sun. But it was a great day today. We freshened up a bit and took off down to the water's edge, bought a Gelati, and ate them sitting on the steps outside the shop. That was our dinner! (Done that before!). To save us from walking up more steps we walked along to the Piazza (not as steep) and saw that the door to the little church in the corner of the Piazza was open. This is a very old building and very non-assuming sitting in the corner. It's actually the 10th Century Oratorio di San Giovanni Battista. We went inside and saw that sections of frescoes still adorn the walls. A beautiful little church, so quiet and peaceful. Glad we were able to see inside. We then took a slow walk back through the Varenna alleyways back to our apartment.
We had a quiet and relaxing night - would you believe, the sky was still an indigo blue at 10pm?!?
This - is Varenna!

This - is Varenna!

Can you see the ivy covered building just above the centre of the photo? That's our place!

Can you see the ivy covered building just above the centre of the photo? That's our place!

Lake Como.

Lake Como.

Bellagio - Lake Como.

Bellagio - Lake Como.

The view of Lake Como and The Alps - from Tremezzo.

The view of Lake Como and The Alps - from Tremezzo.

A Palace on the banks of Lake Como.

A Palace on the banks of Lake Como.

The mountains behind Tremezzo and Lenno - Lake Como.

The mountains behind Tremezzo and Lenno - Lake Como.

Boats moored on Lake Como.

Boats moored on Lake Como.

Selfie on Lake Como - Bellagio is in the background.

Selfie on Lake Como - Bellagio is in the background.

The Promenade at Tremezzo - Lake Como.

The Promenade at Tremezzo - Lake Como.

Bellagio and The Alps - Lake Como.

Bellagio and The Alps - Lake Como.

The Grand Hotel on the banks of Lake Como - Tremezzo.

The Grand Hotel on the banks of Lake Como - Tremezzo.

Beautiful shopping alleyway in Bellagio.

Beautiful shopping alleyway in Bellagio.

Posted by Gibbo54 13:14 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Varenna

The Diamond of Lake Como.

semi-overcast 32 °C
View Red and Annie's European Journey on Gibbo54's travel map.

The traffic in Varenna reduces at night, which is great. I didn't need ear plugs - so that's a good indication that it was pretty quiet. We woke up this morning to find a haze across Lake Como - so across to the other side of the lake wasn't clear - and off in the distance the mountains were barely visible. Lets hope that it clears.
We had been told by our hosts that we were free to go up in to the gardens on their property. Their property is built in to the side of the mountain, so after breakfast we set off up the stone steps up to see what was above us. There are 4 levels here at the Villa Albertina - and with each level the view keeps getting better. By the time we reached the top we had a beautiful 180 degree of Lake Como - just spectacular, even through the haze - stunning.
We arranged with Marco that we'd meet at 4pm today to go to Bellano to the supermarket - so we were now able to plan our day. We are fairly high up in the town of Varenna, so we walked down heaps of steps in one of the narrow alleyways to get down on to the Lake. We had a walk around the path to where the boats and ferries arrive and depart. This is all very familiar territory from our last visit here nearly 3 years ago. We then walked to the main Piazza where stands the Church of San Giorgio. The bell tower of the church is a familiar sight in all photos of Varenna. We went inside the church - beautiful - with parts of frescoes from the 13th Century still visible.
After a Panini lunch at one of the cafes in the Piazza we started off on our walk along the lake, past the Villa Monastero towards Fiumelatte. This was where we stayed during our last visit to Lake Como. We came to the Fiumelatte River - an intriguing little river just 250 metres long, reputed to be the shortest river in Europe. The river was also studied by Leonardo da Vinci. We had passed it numerous times when we were here last, but this time we decided to find the source of the river. There are houses right alongside it and for the 6 months a year that it's running, the residents live with the constant sound of a roaring river. You can hear it from a distance away. We walked in off the main road, through little laneways - moving onward and upward. The route left laneways behind and changed to a dirt and stone track. Man made and natural steps quite often without rails (Oh - please don't let us fall!), higher and higher we went - always close to the raging little river. Finally to the top - Il Sorgente - the source. It looked like a small dark cave opening - and out spilled the water from the mountains above - at a great rate of knots, down the mountain for 250 metres and in to Lake Como. It was really hot and humid climbing to the top, but standing next to the raging little river - it was like a natural air conditioner.
We made our way half way back down and then took a turn to the right to go back in to Varenna a different way. We came across the town's Cemetery - on the side of the mountain - such a picturesque site. It is a beautiful cemetery with exquisite statues chosen by family members for loved ones who have passed on. There is also a long row of family crypts standing side by side along the mountain wall - a very impressive sight.
We continued on back down in to Varenna and back at our aparment - met up with Marco and Marta for our shopping trip. The 4 of us drove to Bellano - having an interesting conversation along the way. Their English is not bad, better than our Italian anyway!
Shopping trip over - Marco helped us with our shopping bags in to our apartment. They have been really helpful - nice young kids. Their parents (the owners of the Villa) are currently in Istanbul celebrating a 50th Birthday - and will be back on Sunday.
The rest of our time today was spent quietly - an easy home cooked dinner and a relatively early night.
The Cemetery in Varenna. To the right is an outstanding view of Lake Como.

The Cemetery in Varenna. To the right is an outstanding view of Lake Como.

The source of the Fiumelatte River - the shortest river in Europe.

The source of the Fiumelatte River - the shortest river in Europe.

Red cooling down on our hot and steamy trek to the source of the Fiumelatte River.

Red cooling down on our hot and steamy trek to the source of the Fiumelatte River.

A noisy, raging torrent - the Fiumelatte River.

A noisy, raging torrent - the Fiumelatte River.

Selfie on the banks of the Fiumelatte River.

Selfie on the banks of the Fiumelatte River.

This is how close surrounding houses are to the Fiumelatte River.

This is how close surrounding houses are to the Fiumelatte River.

A hazy but still beautiful day on Lake Como.

A hazy but still beautiful day on Lake Como.

Varenna - Lake Como.

Varenna - Lake Como.

Looking down on one of the statues in the Gardens of the Villa Monastera.

Looking down on one of the statues in the Gardens of the Villa Monastera.

The Church of San Giorgio - Varenna.

The Church of San Giorgio - Varenna.

A quaint water fountain in the town of Fiumelatte.

A quaint water fountain in the town of Fiumelatte.

Where the Fiumelatte River spills in to Lake Como.

Where the Fiumelatte River spills in to Lake Como.

The Altar of the Church of San Giorgio - Varenna.

The Altar of the Church of San Giorgio - Varenna.

Varenna in the early morning.

Varenna in the early morning.

The garden at the very top of our accommodation in Varenna.

The garden at the very top of our accommodation in Varenna.

Looking to the right - the view from the top garden at the Villa Albertina.

Looking to the right - the view from the top garden at the Villa Albertina.

Looking to the left - this is Varenna.

Looking to the left - this is Varenna.

Walking up the steps in our garden, this is our view - Lake Como.

Walking up the steps in our garden, this is our view - Lake Como.

Posted by Gibbo54 10:21 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Varenna

Back to beautiful Lake Como.

sunny 32 °C
View Red and Annie's European Journey on Gibbo54's travel map.

Three alarms went off this morning at 4am to ensure that we didn't sleep in. We packed up our car and left Lygaria Bay in the pitch black at 5am. Scary roads around there in the dark - especially when you know what they're like during the day.
We got to Heraklion Airport in really good time, but were fairly confused as to just where we had to leave the hire car. We were told that someone would be there - no-one was. In the end, Red left the car in the parking space and left the key on the back wheel - there was no drop box. We had to race to get through Security and Passport Control in time for our flight. Once the panic was over we were able to send an email off to Athens Cars via the Airport's Wifi.
We had a short flight from Heraklion to Athens, then through Security once more and a mad dash up to the next gate for our flight to Milan. Stressful stuff for the poor old "Two Idiots"!
So. Things are nice and calm now. We're currently about half way through our flight up to Milan - and conserving our energy. This travel day is far from over!
The remainder of our flight was spent chatting to a fellow passenger - a guy originally from Canada, but now living back in Athens. He is of Greek descent. It was really good to get his perspective on the current financial situation in Greece.
After arriving in Milan we found our way through to the airport and bought train tickets on the Malpensa Express, which would take us directly in to Milano Centrale Station. We also bought train tickets for Varenna - the train apparently leaves from the same main station, rather than the Metro. We really didn't want to be lugging all our bags up and down stairs with the daily commuters. Been there - done that - don't want to do it again!
The trip in to the centre of Milan went without a hitch. When we arrived we tried to find out which train would take us to Varenna - no luck. Plus - there is no-one, NO-ONE - to help poor travellers find their way around! We looked like the Bag Man and Bag Lady of Milano - pulling all our worldly possessions behind us - trying to find our way. Confusion and frustration were present in great bucket loads! In the end, we found a couple of guys who worked for Trenord (the name on the tickets we bought) who were repairing a fast ticket machine. With their broken English, they were able to provide us with enough information to point us in the right direction. Even then, the platform number changed.
We had a quick lunch and got on the train with just a couple of minutes to spare. Travel days can really be the "pits"!!
At 2.20pm the train pulled out and about an hour later we arrived at Varenna Station after passing through the most spectacular scenery along Lake Como. On our last visit to Varenna we missed our stop because we didn't know how to open the train door (you really have to be quick!). Today - I yanked on that door as if my life depended on it! There was no way that we were not getting off at Varenna. We were met at the station by our Landlord's son - Marco, and his Uncle. They piled our bags in to the back of their car and drove us the short distance to our apartment, which is on the first level of their 200 year old house - the Villa Albertina. It is a square building covered in ivy - stunning. Marco introduced us to his sister Marta, brother Giorgio and their dog Lago. Lago is an italian breed of dog - a Lagotto - multi coloured hound with a woolly coat like a poodle. He then showed us around our home for the next 7 days - it's great, with plenty of room. We are right in the middle of the town of Varenna. There's a fair bit of traffic noise - but given the location, we'll deal with that. The bed is comfortable - yes! So, here we are back in beautiful Varenna - our last stop on our 8 week journey. Our plan here is to slow down and recuperate from the energetic last 7 weeks. Let's see how we go!
Our suitcases exploded all over the apartment! We walked just down the road to the little Supermarket to get enough provisions for tonight. Marco has offered to drive us the 4 kms to Bellano tomorrow - where there is a bigger supermarket. We'll take him up on his offer - and do a grocery shop to take us to the end of our journey next week.
We had a simple salad for dinner and turned in around 9.15 - even though it was still light, I couldn't stay up a moment longer.
Our bedroom window in our apartent in Varenna.

Our bedroom window in our apartent in Varenna.

Red is looking out of our living room window.

Red is looking out of our living room window.

We are staying here in Varenna - the Villa Albertina.

We are staying here in Varenna - the Villa Albertina.

The view from our front door.

The view from our front door.

This is a statue in an alcove - right at our front door. The building is 200 years old.

This is a statue in an alcove - right at our front door. The building is 200 years old.

Posted by Gibbo54 08:27 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Heraklion

There is nothing like Cretan hospitality.

sunny 25 °C
View Red and Annie's European Journey on Gibbo54's travel map.

The wind picked up throughout the night, and although it's sunny today it is still quite windy and about 10 degrees cooler. A quiet day for us today - in readiness for our huge travel day tomorrow.
We had another leisurely breakfast this morning - and now half the day has cruised by without us even realising it. I've been sitting here on the balcony - happily tapping away at this journal - and looking out over this glorious little bay. Oh - I hope I never forget it.
We spent the afternoon doing this and that. It was great to just potter around - like we would at home on the weekend. Red borrowed a bucket from Lisa (apparently it's called a "kuva"), and washed our hire car - which had changed colour from black to dirt brown. We walked down the hill once more into the little village of Lygaria and chose the "Lygaria Taverna" to have dinner. The old gentleman who owns the Taverna served us - he must have been close to 80. What a lovely man - he has owned the place for 37 years. It must have done okay over that time because he's been able to put both of his sons through university. One is a doctor, the other one lives in Sydney and is a Professor of Languages.
We had a beautiful meal right there on the beach. At the end of dinner the gentleman brought out complimentary melon and a Limoncello each to finish the meal properly. We shook his hand and said goodbye - and then ventured up the dreaded hill to our apartment.
We paid our accommodation bill and thanked Lisa for her wonderful hospitality during our stay. The three places that we have stayed at in Crete have been outstanding. All the hosts have been brilliant - the only down side to each of the three apartments has been the hard beds. If you read up on reviews of accommodation in Greece in general - it's a common complaint.
Lisa also gave us a bottle of Raki to take home - such a lovely, bubbly, sweet lady.
Back up to our apartment to pack up and an early night - we have to be up at a very unreasonable hour tomorrow morning.
Crete? We are coming back!
Making the most of our balcony.

Making the most of our balcony.

Lygaria Bay - one of many towns dotted along the coast near Heraklion. Concrete shells of would be homes are visible.

Lygaria Bay - one of many towns dotted along the coast near Heraklion. Concrete shells of would be homes are visible.

Interesting and dangerous looking rock formations on the side of the mountain at Lygaria Bay.

Interesting and dangerous looking rock formations on the side of the mountain at Lygaria Bay.

Our view while dining - right on the beach. It was 7pm.

Our view while dining - right on the beach. It was 7pm.

Peaceful Lygaria Bay - Heraklion. Our apartment complex is roughly one third in from the right - on the very top.

Peaceful Lygaria Bay - Heraklion. Our apartment complex is roughly one third in from the right - on the very top.

Small and charming church - Lygaria Bay.

Small and charming church - Lygaria Bay.

The steep driveway down to sea level - from our apartment.

The steep driveway down to sea level - from our apartment.

Overlooking Lygaria Bay at night - complete with crescent moon.

Overlooking Lygaria Bay at night - complete with crescent moon.

Posted by Gibbo54 12:38 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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